There are probably two things that I will always be thankful to my stepfather for. One would be my obsession when it comes to horror movies, the other being my deep appreciation and love of classic cars. As a kid growing up in Michigan, it was a given that every summer Saturday night would be spent at the Detroit Dragway. We’d either be watching him race his “68” Camaro (The Gambler) OR if he’d just so happened to have blown its engine the previous week, we’d still show up, betting pennies on the endless march of muscle cars attempting to best each other in a quarter-mile. A Christmas tree was always more than just something to put presents under, it was also the beginning or demise of a hopeful driver’s chance at a win. The last thing you wanted to do was “red light”. If that happened, it wasn’t even worth the gas you’d burn up or the amount of rubber you’d burn off of the ridiculously expensive tires attempting to shoot down the strip. While he had the skills and the guts, he never had the money or the sponsorship it took to get to the top. Honestly, there were countless times I recall he and my mother fighting over the reality of there being no groceries in the house when she had to sign for a thousand dollar part when it came to the door. I imagine that getting behind the wheel of that Chevy, hoping for glory, is what got him through the 60 hours a week he put in at the steel mill. Mom would never understand that nor could she comprehend his reasoning of telling a 10-year-old girl how he hoped he would die smashing into a guard rail at a 120 mph, bursting into a ball of flames. It had almost happened once before in his 67 GTO (Crazy Man’s Coffin) and now that he’s retired, just tinkering on friends cars, glazed eyes filled with regret with every turn of his ratchet, I think he really wishes it would have. That’s a gear head for you though. Nothing fills the void like chrome, nitrous, racing slicks or speed. You breathe it, the only thing worth getting out of bed for.
Some of my best memories from childhood were our annual ventures to the Autorama at Cobo Hall downtown. Sure, we’d always hit up the North American International Auto show too but those were all the new fangled deals that you’d see on the road in a year or concepts that would never be on a car lot anywhere. The Autorama was all about guys like my step dad who stopped caring about anything put out after 1970. Not stuffy or full of itself, just an incredibly fun time for kids like me who not only wanted to sit in the General Lee, but also take some time on Sorrell Brooks’ (Boss Hog’s) lap. I was amazed at how he was nothing like his wicked character on The Dukes of Hazzard and even more surprised that George The Animal Steele wasn’t some slobbering, caveman with a green tongue that ate turnbuckles 24 hours a day. He was actually very soft-spoken and kind. That’s what the Autorama was. Eye popping cars and a chance to mingle with some of your favorite personalities that you saw on t.v. every week. Sometimes, more often than not, it was hard to sleep the night before and with all those good times I mind, I couldn’t wait to check out the World of Wheels.
This crazy contraption was my greeting. No earthly idea what was top of mind when it was conceived. Still…pretty neat.
Heart pounding, blood slowing as I entered the showroom taking in the crazy beauty of it all.
Overcome by the sight of this thing, I forgot to find out what the hell it was!
1941 Willys Roadster (a.k.a. Insane Behavior)
1968 Pontiac Firebird – Can’t lie, I thought about licking it.
1956 Ford All Steel Body-Fred Sanford would have killed for it!
1967 Pontiac Firebird- I’m crazy about them anyways but dear Lord, bury me in this car.
1968 Ford Mustang Convertible-My second favorite of the pony’s after the 69 Mach 1 Fastback.
Another 1941 Willys Roadster-Check out that chrome steering wheel! Meant to be driven wearing gloves.
Scrambling around in the huge crowd, a 1930’s model Ford cried out, blowin’ my mind.
This custom creation is from Norm Wizner of Norm’s Rod Shop in Lilburn. Norm was nice enough to take a few minutes to talk a little bit about his incredible history in the business. After returning from the Army as a young man, Wizner taught math for five years before deciding to race cars full-time. Over the 40 years back in Ohio he spent on the track, he developed a strong following but found himself more famous than rich towards the end. In one hellish accident, he even broke his back. Hanging it up, moving to Atlanta in the late eighties, Norm and his extremely supportive wife Susan decided to just build a car for fun. They took it to a show, a guy loved it, asked Wizner to build one for him and just like that, Norm’s Rod Shop was born. While he said business is down 50% since 2006, things are still moving along. The biggest obstacle he faces is finding good help these days. Not a ton of young guys going into this stuff anymore. Recently, he hired a guy even older than him to do body work. Norm is and has always been a Ford guy. He and his wife are also two of the sweetest folks you’ll ever meet.
Not everything has to be sparkly to be eye-catching. The “Impaler” proves that in spades.
The best use of flat black EVER. MEAN and ballsy, like a great white shark that would devour schools of pathetic, compact imports every chance it got.
1932 Roadster (a.k.a. Red Ryder)
Still just as wicked as when Burt drove it. Sidebar- Am I the only one who misses T-tops? Sure they were a pain in the ass but they looked cool as hell.
1957 Chevy Bel Air- Unarguably one the most gorgeous rides of ALL time.
1969 Chevelle Super Sport- My Stepfather would’ve needed a bib after seeing what was under the hood.
Camel’s version of a “champagne room”? Guess they figured a hot chick could lure smokers to Camel Sinus packets. It seemed to be working.
I also ran across some serious bikes.
However, none as cool as the one below that lit up!
When I told Paul from Pauleez Custom Cycle Repair that I’d never seen anything like it, he said he figured as he’s just invented the process. He also let me know that Orange County doesn’t come up with every great idea! When asked what it was called he didn’t really even have a name for it yet but told me I could call it electraillumicaneurathane…I think. How he thought of it? A customer came in with an emblem that lit up that he’d purchased from a place in Florida called Gator Glass and asked if Paul could make him a bike that intermittently glowed in the same way. He gave it a shot and at present is working on making whole panels that will do the same thing. Bonus- Paul’s a great guy!
Like any good car freak, I worship at the altar of Chip Foose from TLC’s Overhaulin’. Everything he makes leaves jaws dropped and bank accounts depleted. Obviously, the line to meet him was NUTS so I had to just bootleg a couple of pics to throw in here.
Can’t take credit for the Bill Clintonish looking one above though. Jack was in line like a GOOD fan, suffering through the wait, saw my struggle and offered to snap it for me. Not only a major Foose follower, Jack was in the process of customizing a 2010 Dodge challenger that he had completely “blacked” out, right down to the engine and Brembo brakes. I wiped the slobber from my lips as he continued on with its name “Black Jack” and how he’d love for Foose to build a car for him. Said he wished it would’ve been ready to show at W.O.W. but couldn’t make the deadline. When it IS completed, he and his wife Jodi will be taking it to some shows with the intention of eventually auctioning it off for charity. More than cars, World of Wheels was full of wonderful human beings like Jack and Jodi. I’m sure Foose was seriously impressed too when they got their turn with him.
Walking away, a familiar, soothing sound permeated my ear drums. Somebody was playing Folsom Prison Blues (quite well!) and when it comes to Johnny Cash, it’s total moth/flame time with me. I had no idea the rockabilly band Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho-Devilles were putting on several shows throughout the day. What a killer idea! They’re music was pitch perfect for an event like this and there were several greasers in the audience lending a pompadour, keepin’ it real.
They were excellent, singing their own originals with covers by Cash and Reverend Horton Heat mixed in. Didn’t even notice that stand up bass was steel until Hot Rod Walt told the story about how he used to like to paint flames on everything. One night, his garage burned up destroying 20 of his hot rods. Ironically, they were ALL covered in flames.
Needless to say, I’m looking for dates when they’ll be back in the area when I can go cover a REAL show of theirs.
Finally tearing myself away, lumbering over to the Outlaw Custom Seats table, I marveled at the amazing craftsmanship it took to make these stunning pieces of art. Each seat was labor intensive and it showed in how fantastic the designs were. One in particular kept calling me to it.
Now I just assumed that those were rocks/pebbles that had just been glued on to the leather. Not even. As Curt Green would school me, it’s actually from a sting ray’s belly. Over time, a sting ray collects tons of sand and rock on its stomach. Once it’s matured, this is how it appears and while Curt admits it’s hard as hell to work with, there’s no denying that it’s worth it. If you want something completely unique for your bike, go see him.
Strolling around, everywhere your eyes fell, there was something fabulous to look at.
Tucked off in the corner however, (I swear I could shoot myself cause this picture is blurry) was my most beloved type of car in existence.
Out of every vehicle I saw that day, there’s none I ‘d rather drive home more than this 1970 Chevy Kingswood wagon. I’m crazy over station wagons, always have been. Mike from Legacy Automotive gushed about how awesome they are and how rare it is that you meet someone who truly appreciates them like he does. The goofy thing in my case is that it goes along with my love of movies. Laying on the roof watching the first feature at the drive in was a must when I was a kid. Usually conking out or not caring about the second movie would send me to the private oasis of the back where I could stretch out with my blanket and pillow, sleeping soundly till we pulled up in front of our house. One of those small things that dictates your tastes for the rest of your life. We talked wagons for a while, how smooth they are to drive, how practical and useful they are. Could’ve went for hours if I had the chance but realized Mike needed to get back to business. What a friendly cat.
Almost forgot the back window! One of the funnest things about the Kingswood.
Dragging major butt to the car, I was spent. There were several more things I could’ve done and talking to Robert on the way out, a regular at these things, I had to concur, this was a TOP NOTCH Car show that anyone who just enjoys art would be glad they went to. Also to the parents I saw in line to see the kid from iCarly-I feel for ya. You all looked like you’d rather be put in an iron maiden than go through that again.
The Yellow lot was eerily quiet as I slumped in the seat of my own dear wagon and it provided a wonderful view of the city skyline. I sat there for a moment, door open, feet on the concrete, becoming one with the silence while basking in the magnificence of Atlanta. What a marvelous place to live with such a variety of things to get out and do. Can’t wait to see what’s next.